Our Avengers: humanity and heroism

The Avengers

This post is meant to be a post on the Avengers.  So if you have not seen the Avengers, go watch it!  It’s really good.  There may be spoilers so I am warning you ahead of time that you should watch it before reading this post.  I found that Mike Cosper’s article on the movie to be extremely helpful on the Gospel Coalition website, and I am just going to add some brief thoughts on the Avengers to complement your movie watching experience.

The question that I think about is what makes the Avengers so appealing and awesome?  It’s the heroes, their stories and what they accomplish.

In his article, Cosper points out that we love the story not just for the awesome graphics and the amazing effects, but also how Joss Whedon draws the characters together through their very human personalities;  I think this was the part where all the characters got to say funny things and interact well together.  Yet what is revealed is that the “superpowers” are an outward covering or veneer to the world that covers each character’s own flaws and struggles.  “The Black Widow’s cold exterior belies an obsessed interior world, keeping tabs on her debts and trying to reconcile with her past. Tony Stark’s ego and fearlessness mask his guilt. Captain America is a man displaced, plagued with the loss of his entire world…At one point in the movie, Stark nags Bruce Banner about his secret, how he works to keep the monster under control, and Banner eventually admits, ‘I’m always angry.’ It turns out The Hulk always lurks, a powerful reminder of powerlessness inside the controlled mind of the scientist.”  Loki, the enemy, seeks to exploit these weaknesses and through subtle manipulations create infighting that would tear up the group.    Yet, it is in their weakness that strength is found… “from the mustard seed becomes the mighty tree.”   The heroes in their midst of their weakness find a strength that helps them to overcome the influence of Loki and the physical attack on New York City by the Chitauri, an alien race seeking to conquer Earth.

Cosper finally ties this to how in our understanding of heroes… we know how weakness comes before strength and how the simple shepherd becomes the king. Jesus Christ came in the most humble ways and died in the most humiliating and “weak & foolish” ways.  Coulson, a simple, humble character (who appears in almost all the Marvel movies before)  sacrifices his life standing up to/fighting against Loki, and the spilling of his blood (on the Capt. America cards) becomes the inspiration that brings the Avengers together and gives them a reason to fight against this evil.   Like this blood spilt idea, but even better, Jesus’ death became the most powerful expression of God’s power and “strength”; it becomes our catalyst and opportunity to be redeemed.  It is the most loving gracious act of love and sacrifice.  This is the hero story that is the most unlikely yet the most powerful, and as Cosper ends he shares this thought:

“a satisfying hero story will always involve a great, gospel-like reversal, where the odds seem insurmountable and the heroes seem overcome. But the tide turns, the heroes rebound, and evil retreats a universe away. Somehow, that story never gets old.”

I think in the whirlwind of life and the weightiness of trying to meet the demand of our idols and standards of success that our world demands from each of us, we all earnestly enjoy and love the hero story where there is redemption and hope… that the way things are, are not the way things are supposed to be.  The sin of our lives, and Satan and his minions, and the other idols of this world desire to draw us into the hopelessness of our lives and into eternal separation from God, yet the great reversal manifests itself in one thing… Jesus Christ… an act of grace and love that stems not from our own efforts but upon God’s heroic action of saving us.

As I reflect on this story, it is easy to be caught up in men’s self-made power and skills, and to be in awe of the superpowers and the Hulk smash… yet these thoughts keep leading me to think about the heroes in our lives.  Who are the heroes in your life?  Who is the hero of your life?  Is it Jesus Christ?  In considering the wonders of what God has done, I realized He has assembled His own group of heroes to serve this earth… in many ways look to the brothers and sisters in Christ around you and their lives.  Many have come to see their very human flaws and yet experienced the wonderful power and hope in Christ through the Spirit that leads them to many heroic events… they love God so much it leads them to serve you and me… to love you and me.

Consider those that serve you in ways that you often overlook.  You know what I’m talking about… all the dirty/menial/costly/annoying/worst/sweat inducing things that we do not want to do; we’ll even pretend not to notice them so we won’t feel guilty for not helping out. Look to those that are serving you the food and setting up a table on Sunday worship.  Look to those heroes that are often picking up trash and cleaning up our mess on Sundays. Look to those that are behind the scenes getting up early to set up worship equipment and are breaking things down at the end of service when everyone else is having a great time.  Consider those that are always cleaning and serving others and are making sure that our studies go smoothly.  Think about those that devote their lives to reaching co-workers and loving those around them.  Consider those that are caring for your children so that you may be able to enjoy your worship time and they have to miss the worship. Think about the missionaries that have given up their own personal comforts to minister to those in random corners of the world. Consider those that sit with you through seasons of difficulty, loneliness, heartbreak, job loss, and any other hardship… being a shoulder to lean on, an intercessor praying/pleading to God on your behalf.  Consider those that have given their lives to proclaim the Gospel whether in service or in their deaths.  Consider those that lay their lives down for others counting others greater than themselves in reflection of the example of their Savior (Phil. 2:1-11).  The list keeps going on.

These are often my heroes, and you know what, their lives excite me.  They get it and they are so amazing because they are living not in their own amazingness but in their humility and weakness.  They lift up others.  They are the ones that have set aside their lives to serve and help others.  They are more powerful in Christ than anything this world has to offer.  They reflect the power of the Infinite God in their finite lives of service.  These are the Avengers of our world.  May you love and appreciate these people and be encouraged by their example of following the one and only true Avenger.  Perhaps one day, you may be a part of the Avengers as well.

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